Milwaukee Record launched on April 7, 2014. Since then, we’ve published nearly 7,000 stories and reached millions upon millions of internet-weary eyeballs (we’re currently in the midst of another record-breaking year). Our output in 2020 was a bit different, to say the least, but we’re proud that we managed to cover important and historic events while still making room for articles about dead malls and giant cheese logs. Oh, and did we mention our 14-hour Socially Distant Telethon (again: thank you), our eight-hour Virtual Summer Festival, our wildly successful Pretty Good Online Auction, and Thursday’s three-hour Best Of The Worst Year livestream? Phew. Anyway, here are some of our favorite stories of 2020.

January 16
Fear, Jon Bon Jovi, and the worst Q&A ever
“The first question was from a 30-something woman who appeared to be a quintessential Bon Jovi fan. Big hair, big nails, big everything. (I say this with the utmost respect—hell, my mom was/is a quintessential Bon Jovi fan.) ‘Can I have a hug?’ the woman asked. The crowd squealed. Jon Bon Jovi did not. In fact, a look passed over his face that said, ‘Oh no, not again.'” [Matt Wild]

January 21
Kopp’s changed its buns. Here are 10 reasons why everything is going to be okay
“I get it. I am very change averse, and I’ve been eating Kopp’s burgers since I was a kid (cheeseburger only pickles, please). The new buns are leaving me even more nostalgic for the old buns of my youth. But remember, this isn’t something that Kopp’s decided to do to its customers. This isn’t an attack on your childhood memories. Everything will be all right. Let’s explore why.” [Lacey Muszynski]

February 17
Take a look inside Green Bay’s endangered East Town Mall
“Still, despite a few new national chains joining Hobby Lobby, Petco, and Kohl’s, the mall itself continues to struggle immensely. The Budget Cinema closed in 2017. The entrances that once connected the indoor mall to anchor stores—Kohl’s on one end and Hobby Lobby on the other—have been walled off. Other East Town staples like Radioshack, Fashion Bug, and MasterCuts are also long gone. In fact, all that’s left in the mall at this point is a GNC, a Bath & Body Works, a consignment gallery, and a whole lot of empty retail space.” [Tyler Maas]

February 18
20 incredible team photos from the ’80s and ’90s ‘Bowling Game’
“As for The Bowling Game, it was an offshoot of the national Bowling For Dollars franchise, and ran on local TV stations from about 1978 until about 1993. In it, two teams of league bowlers set up shop in Red Carpet Lanes North and faced each other in a four-frame game (frames 7-10). Money and other prizes were on the line. Lee Rothman and Tom Kohl were your hosts.” [MW]

March 2
We closed Wolski’s and opened Highbury on the same day (and did local late night stuff in between)
“We can’t claim to know whether anyone before us has ever closed Wolski’s and opened Highbury on the same day. I’d guess that people probably have. If they haven’t, it’s surely not due to difficulty…probably more so a result of just never thinking to do something so random. Though we didn’t do anything monumental this time around, it was still fun to use this free day in February to see Milwaukee in a way (and at a time) many of us don’t typically get to experience it.” [TM]

March 20
I am not handling this well
“But what scares me isn’t the financial hit to my livelihood, and it certainly isn’t the cultural hit to my livelihood. It’s…something else. I feel paranoid and afraid. I feel confused and detached. I feel like something is ending and something else—something I’m not prepared for—is beginning. I feel ill.” [MW]

April 2
16 pictures of Milwaukee under quarantine
“Walk outside these days (something you should avoid doing if possible) and you’ll be greeted by empty streets, empty storefronts, and other signs of Milwaukee under quarantine. Speaking of signs, you’ll see plenty of those, too. Here’s a small handful of those signs—some offering messages of hope and inspiration, some offering messages of levity and humor in these strange, strange times. Stay safe, Milwaukee. We will get through this together.” [Milwaukee Record Staff]

April 7
I believe in Milwaukee
“We’ve always worked hard to champion the city and the amazing things its residents accomplish on a daily basis. I’ve loved the city—warts and all—with all of my heart over the 10-plus-year span I’ve lived here, and I’ve been inspired by the growth and evolution this much-maligned and often-miscast region has experienced during our relative short run as a business. All of that being said, I feel like I’ve learned far more about Milwaukee, its people, and its unshakable spirit over the course of the last three weeks than I ever knew before.” [TM]

April 21
R.I.P. Milwaukee journalist Mike Anderson, a.k.a. full-hearted soul singer Roshell Anderson
“Roshell Anderson is a great discovery for many Milwaukeeans, as he was always right under our noses but never presented as the songbird he truly was. He was always our Mike Anderson, and in death he has found a new life in his community as not just a local TV star, but as an R&B legend. Rest easy, Mike. Fly high, Roshell.” [Juan Miguel Martinez]

May 5
6 behind the scenes stories from WWE Milwaukee
“Milwaukee has been home to some great wrestling matches over the years and there have been plenty of intriguing behind the scenes stories here as well. The backstage anecdotes of professional wrestling are often more interesting than what appears on TV, and today we are compiling some of the best of those stories that took place in Milwaukee.” [Vince Morales]

June 3
Seedy memories of the gloriously seedy Prospect Mall
“Video Visions was incredible, full stop. Weird films, cult films, foreign films, hip horror, cheesy horror, you name it. My time spent there was during those kinda-great ‘VHS transitioning to DVD’ years, and I remember renting everything from David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive to Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt. There was a dude who worked there who had a crush on me, and one time he cornered me in the back of the store and asked if we could make out. I politely declined, he politely shrugged, and he let me rent that old Tom Hanks Dungeons & Dragons rip-off movie, Mazes And Monsters, for free. No harm, no foul!” [MW]

June 4
Peaceful protests continue on Wednesday despite alleged threats, openly armed outside group
“Multiple peaceful protests took to the streets of Milwaukee for the sixth day in a row on Wednesday. Once again, the protests were a unified cry against police brutality, police militarization, and the murder of George Floyd and countless other African Americans at the hands of the police.” [MW]

June 7
Weekend of peaceful Milwaukee protests brings out Bucks, Pride, superheroes
“More than a dozen protest marches took to the streets of Milwaukee on Saturday and Sunday. Once again, the protests were a unified cry against the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, as well as the institutional racism that contributed to Floyd’s murder. The weekend marked the ninth and tenth consecutive days of peaceful Milwaukee protests.” [Juan Miguel Martinez, Matt Wild, Meg Strobel]

June 16
“I felt that my life was over”: 4 Milwaukee women describe traumatic curfew arrests during protests
“I have asked several incredible women that I met through my arrest to bravely share their stories in hopes that you will LISTEN and then demand that the City Attorney and District Attorney dismiss all citations and charges. Dismissing curfew tickets is not enough. We are demanding that City Attorney Tearman Spencer dismiss all municipal citations AND that Milwaukee District Attorney John T. Chisholm dismiss all criminal charges related to the protests against police brutality. And we demand a transparent and public process.” [Johanna Rose]

June 29
Buckle up and enjoy video of the Great Milwaukee Record Sausage Race
“Last Thursday, Milwaukee Record threw our first (and god willing, our last) Virtual Summer Festival. With little to no festivals, block parties, or sports to thrill and entertain us this year, the 8-hour livestream was a perfect substitute for the real thing. Just kidding—it was a pale imitation of the real thing, but hey, we featured a ton of great Milwaukee music, a ton of impromptu silliness, and at least it was something.” [MRS]

July 1
I interviewed another person named Tyler Maas (and learned about myself in the process)
“Ironically, learning facts and preferences of a person that shares my name got me thinking about my own background, past, likes and dislikes, dreams, and how I wish to be seen by others. As I do at the end of any interview I conduct, I asked Tyler Maas the upbeat budtender from Greeley, Colorado if there was anything else he wanted to say. ‘If I’m not alone then neither are you,’ he replied.” [TM]

July 16
We tried Beef Fizz (and other old-timey summer drinks) so you don’t have to
“Shockingly, Beef Fizz wasn’t as bad as we expected. It was worse. Much, much worse. The broth—the primary ingredient in the drink—had the faint odor of dry cat food. It was sort of masked by the lemon juice and ginger ale, but the divergent flavors of sweet, sour, salty and…beefy still didn’t seem any more appealing once we had it in a chilled pint glass full of ice. To be honest, the first sip wasn’t terrible. We suspect that was because the ginger and lemon separated from the broth, resting near the top of the glass. Once we stirred it up thoroughly and drank some of the darker/beefier portion, it was apparent: this was wack. We couldn’t think of something we’d want to drink less after partaking in an outdoor activity.” [TM]

August 5
A deep dive into Wisconsin’s many lakes (and what some of them mean to me)
“Now comes the part of the article where I should admit that I didn’t just come here to impress you with a bunch of Wisconsin lake facts. (But you are impressed by my lake facts, right? Right?!) Honestly, I took the deep dive to learn more about this ultra-specific topic because, well, I’ve been thinking a lot about lakes lately. More specifically, I’ve been thinking a lot about lakes, youth, my life, and how just how many memorable moments happened to take place in direct proximity to one of these bodies of water.” [TM]

August 6
I tried Crafty Cow’s “Heat And Repeat” spicy chicken sandwich challenge
“Being someone who routinely enjoys Crafty Cow’s delicious Nashville Hot, I wanted to see if I could bump up the heat and be the third to finish it. Here’s my attempt. (My sincere apologies for the gross chewing noises and heavy breathing. As you can see, that sandwich did a number on me!)” [TM]

August 17
#DNC2020: Milwaukee was supposed to tell its story—but what story was that supposed to be?
“There’s been a lot of talk about the DNC returning to Milwaukee in 2024. If it does happen—and I hope it does—I’d like to think we’ll have a different story to tell. A better story, with fewer dark moments and overblown pride and more hard-won victories and triumphs of justice. Think of what we can accomplish in four years. Even if the DNC doesn’t return, we shouldn’t pass up the chance to show the world who we are. And if not who we are, who we can be.” [MW]

August 19
Dream 13: A baker’s dozen Grebe’s donuts we’d like to share with professional disc golfers, ranked
“When watching disc golf and eating Grebe’s baked goodness simultaneously, one can’t help but slowly merge the two concepts into one conversation. Well, most can, but we can’t. Therefore, we began directing our research towards answering the same question that puzzled our Camry-driving ancestors: With which professional disc golfers would we like to share our donuts, and in what order?” [Josh Hoppert]

August 26
Stephen Colbert apologizes for dumping on Milwaukee, uses our headline in apology
“Amidst last week’s non-existent Democratic National Convention, we were dismayed to learn that Late Night host Stephen Colbert had taken a stinky dump on our city with a lame ‘Virtual Milwaukee’ tour. It wasn’t the over-the-top accent and the tired stereotypes that stung (Beer! Bronze Fonz!), it was the fact that Milwaukee was out tens of thousands of visitors and untold millions of dollars due to the DNC pivoting to an almost all-virtual event. Did you have to kick us while we were down, Stephen? Et tu?” [MW]

October 14
A West Allis pizzeria (inside a Jamaican restaurant) makes the biggest mozzarella sticks I’ve ever seen
“If you’re somehow still doubting the sheer size of these cheese pipes, I decided to put some things we had sitting around our office beside the larger of the two Lightning Rods in order to help establish scale. As you can see, it’s bigger than NBA Jam AND NBA Jam T.E. Super Nintendo cartridges stacked end to end.” [TM]

October 15
Who has better cheese curds: Culver’s or Cousins?
“I grew up thinking these glorious franchises were national concerns; I can’t begin to tell you how sad I was for the rest of the country when I learned they were not. I also grew up proud living in the great state of Wisconsin; I can’t begin to tell you how disgusted I am that I now live in a state where 19,880 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded in the last seven days and where state Republicans continue to show nothing but smug indifference or outright hostility to anything resembling a rational plan to save lives and put an end to this nightmare that could have lasted a few months but now appears will last into 2021 and possibly even 2022. There were 1,017 active hospitalizations in Wisconsin yesterday. There were 1,536 total deaths.” [MW]

November 27
MKE SEX: Not sexy. Just sad
“Staying distant is the right thing to do, and it’s also the hard thing to do. I am grateful I have had 25 years (so far) of holidays with my now-adult children. I am in love with the traditions we’ve built and repeated. I’m honored when one of them asks how to re-create a dish or decoration from our family’s history. I’m delighted when one of them does something differently, exploring other foods and ideas to build their own new traditions. And I’m proud. I’m so fucking proud that even though we’d all love to run at each other, masks off and arms open, and fall into the most glorious cuddle puddle—we won’t do it.” [Lucky Tomaszek]

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